“Missing the Lib Dems”

inewspaper24th oct2015From the letters page of the i newspaper yesterday:

After the election, one commentator remarked that history would treat the Liberal Democrats better than the electorate did.

After less than six months of this spiteful government it is already clear what a restraining influence the Lib Dems were.

STUART ACKLAND
MILTON KEYNES

And from Twitter today:

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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39 Comments

  • David Evans 25th Oct '15 - 6:03pm

    Marvellous! Things like this might make a few people near the top feel self-vindicated, but if they use it as another excuse to carry on as if they don’t need to learn from their mistakes and change, it will simply delay further our party’s recovery. 🙁

  • Paul,

    The Lib Dems did a lot of good in government. Most people didn’t deny this. I think the party still don’t get it, so please let me give you my take on where the party went wrong:

    1. The party spent the last few decades building a voter base that consisted of anti-Tory voters rather than liberals. Constantly bombarding “target seats” with leaflets containing the message “it’s a two horse race, Labour can’t win here, vote Lib Dem or get a Tory, it’s us or them” built a base of anti-tory voters. You know, a voter base of people that above all else did not want the Tories in number 10. Putting the Tories in number 10 destroyed that voter base. I think the senior Tories and their advisers might have known that the coalition would do this to the party, even if the Lib Dems didn’t.

    2. The only exception to point 1 seems to be the tuition fees policy. Other than that one policy I can’t see any other policy that lots of people voted Lib Dem in order to see implemented. We all know how that turned out. I wonder why the Tories absolutely insisted that for a coalition the Lib Dems have to break that one policy? Perhaps they wanted to be doubly sure that the coalition would destroy the Lib Dems, you know, just in case point number 1 didn’t quite do it.

    3. After being part of a reasonably good government and collectively responsible for what that government did the Lib Dems tried to runaway from their own record. Other than points number 1 and 2 I can’t think of what else could make a party look more untrustworthy than running away from their own record in office.

  • nvelope2003 25th Oct '15 - 6:31pm

    Have they run away from their record in office ? Maybe some but certainly not the majority. The problem is that their voters did not like the coalition, no matter that it did good things. As you say they were anti Tory voters and nothing the Tories do would be any good because the Tories did it. Seems clear enough to me. I am sure that if they introduced PR, abolished the House of Lords, increased benefits, abolished immigration controls and legalised cannabis those people would still not be happy. Many people like to criticise whatever other people do. It is a trait in human behaviour which keeps us on our toes.

  • David Allen 25th Oct '15 - 7:29pm

    DavidW: “I can’t think of what else could make a party look more untrustworthy than running away from their own record in office.”

    This seems to me a rather meaningless remark. Has Corbyn “run away” from Labour’s record in office under Blair? Hardly. He has disowned it, denounced it, explained what he does not like about it, and promised to do differently. Whether or not you agree with Corbyn, “running away” is not a fair description of what he is doing.

    Like Labour, we have a new leadership since we left Government. I’m sure we do not need to emulate Corbyn and denounce just about everything our previous leadership did. On the other hand, we also do not need to pretend that nothing went wrong. We should be pleased that our new leader is developing his own distinctive platform, and is not bound by the past. Whether or not you agree with Farron, “running away” is not a fair description of what he is doing, either.

  • @nvelope2003: “Have they run away from their record in office ?”

    During the election campaign they did, yes.

    They tried to take credit for the good parts that were Lib Dem policies that were implemented and then tried to blame other things on the Tories. But when you are in government you take collective responsibility for everything, coalition or not. Cameron was right, when you run on your record you run on it all, you take responsibility for everything. To do anything else just looked childish and untrustworthy.

  • @nvelope2003: “Seems clear enough to me. I am sure that if they introduced PR, abolished the House of Lords, increased benefits, abolished immigration controls and legalised cannabis those people would still not be happy.”

    Yeah you’re probably right there. but that’s only because their voters were the very people they targeted, anti-Tory voters rather than liberally minded voters. I suppose liberally minded voters would look at what liberally policies they got implemented and probably judge them on that. But they didn’t spend decades targeting liberally minded voters, they spent decades targeting anti-tory ones.

  • Perhaps it would have been better for the country if the Tories’ true colours had been revealed five years ago rather than being shielded by the Lib Dems?

  • “@nvelope2003: “Seems clear enough to me. I am sure that if they introduced PR, abolished the House of Lords, increased benefits, abolished immigration controls and legalised cannabis those people would still not be happy.””

    I, and many others, would have been very happy indeed if they had just stopped the NHS reforms.

  • Just watching Tim Farron on Sunday Politics – very good! And totally in the right!

  • When history is written the full extent of the 2008 financial crisis will be realised. It seems now there are many who believe that things can go on as nothing had happened. Can China with its own millions of poor be expected to prop up Britain’s flagging economy?

  • @David Evans “Things like this might make a few people near the top feel self-vindicated, but if they use it as another excuse to carry on as if they don’t need to learn from their mistakes and change, it will simply delay further our party’s recovery.”

    On the other hand, “things like this” challenge the world view of those who always disliked Nick Clegg and the politics of the coalition and who never fail to take an opportunity that they were right about that and everyone else was wrong, and it makes them feel uncomfortable.

  • @David W ” But they didn’t spend decades targeting liberally minded voters, they spent decades targeting anti-tory ones.”

    Spot on. And there are plenty on this board who would rush into repeating this mistake. Anti-Tory voters rush off to other places at the first whiff of compromise and don’t come back.

  • Denis Mollison 26th Oct '15 - 8:00am

    Manfarang – not sure of the relevance of your contribution, but if it’s meant to support the Coalition’s justification in sorting out an economic crisis I can’t agree. The economy was improving in early 2010, and the Coalition’s austerity measures set it back; it only started doing better when they quietly eased off on austerity and deficit reduction. Labour’s greatest mistake from which they will suffer for years yet was to accept the narrative that their economic policies were irresponsible.

  • From my perspective as a sometime Lib Dem voter the problem is not so much whether I believed you made the Tories less bad (that much was clear from 2010) but whether that in itself is a reason to vote for you.

    “Vote for us, and we’ll dilute the larger party in a coalition” is an entirely true and believable claim – but an even more effective way (assuming you live in a seat where the choice is relevant) is to vote for the other larger party so that they stand more chance of being the coalition major partner (or majority government)

    The only time it’s relevant is when you like the Lib Dem policies in and of themselves – and then all you’re saying is “vote for us and we’ll try to get our policies enacted” which is a bit of a waste of space for an election message, and even then better to point to the ones you did get rather than the Tory ones you stopped.

  • Ok folks hold on to your hats because I am about to say something I don’t normally do on LDV – Tim Farron was great on Radio 4 Today just now and the Labour guy was completely wrong in saying that the Lib Dems were grandstanding ! Seriously I will be extremely annoyed with Labour if they don’t support the Lib Dems’ fatal motion today!! I don’t like to see tribalism before country and I’ll be very disappointed if Corbyn’s Labour do that. I am still disgusted with the 20 ”Moderates’ who abstained last week.

    The Lib Dems were not good in Government (eg what they did to the NHS) but they are shaping up pretty well in opposition.

  • Well they might be missing the Lib Dems, but not that much, according to our poll ratings.

    I think perhaps that we’re not so much being missed as utterly forgotten. The problem now is to remind them we actually still exist.

  • @TCO “things like this” don’t challenge the view of those who copuld see that Nick Clegg’s leadership in coalition was destroying the party which led to our destruction in 2015, because we had seen it happen to councillors and MSPs in 2011, councillors again in 2012 & 2013, and finally in 2014 when our MEPs were almost totally annihilated. It wasn’t a dislike of Nick Clegg or coalition. It was a clear understanding of the facts about how badly coalition had been handled by Nick: from the Rose Garden to the perennial following David Cameron around hospitals etc usually a dutiful step behind; from Tuition Fees to NHS reform, the AV referendum and Secret Courts; and from the corrosive effect of things like Nick’s continual reference to “grown up government” and ridiculous ‘push polling’ as a means of talking down to those who pointed out his failure and justify no change to the only true path.

    So a clear dislike of the disaster for the party being caused by what Nick was doing, a clear dislike for the effect of his style of leadership on the party as a whole, but most of all a clear dislike for where his path has led us to. I trust you too do not like the fact that there are now so few Lib Dem MPs, MEPs, councillors etc in positions where they can help deliver a free, open and fair Liberal Democratic society that we all exist to build and safeguard. Or do you really believe that it is right that the party has been nearly destroyed?

  • Paul Walter, no I don’t agree. If the Lib Dems had not shielded the Tories from 2010 to 2015, the public would have wised up by 2015 and the Lib Dems would have still been a strong force in politics. It seems that the Lib Dems have been destroyed for nothing because now we have five years of pain and no effective opposition. It was huge political miscalculation.

  • Quoting a Labour MP; that’s a first….
    Yet another re-hash of how we were ‘misunderstood by those fickle voters….. Politics is ALL about the perception of voters; if you can’t grasp that fact then stay out of politics….
    Those who left in droves didn’t do so as much from what was done but by HOW it was done….At no stage was there any emphasis on LibDems being reluctant juniors in a coalition. Our leaders (and, to a large extent, LDV) ‘carried the flag’ for the policies….Danny Alexander spent more time in the media defending ‘Blue’ policies than Osborne….

    NHS, bedroom tax, secret courts, etc., all things that should have been an anathema to us, were lauded by our leaders….Disastrous results in all elections and continuous single figure polling were ignored, we were told there was no alternative and that the electorate, despite all the evidence to the contrary, admired us for showing that we were capable of government…

    All these type of threads show is that some of us have learned nothing from 2010-15….

  • Even if the whole country says they miss the Lib Dems in Government, how does that help the Lib Dems? There is no prospect that people will vote Lib Dem in enough numbers to produce a majority Lib Dem government and there is currently no mechanism for electing Lib Dems as the junior partner in a coalition government. So people missing the Lib Dems is lovely for members to hear but it has no meaningful value beyond that.

    If the leadership hadn’t messed up the coalition, people leaving Corbyn’s Labour would have a home to go to in the Lib Dems but that is no longer an option (though the Lib Dems say they don’t want those sort of people anyway).

  • @Dennis Mollison “Labour’s greatest mistake from which they will suffer for years yet was to accept the narrative that their economic policies were irresponsible.”

    What we categorically don’t need is party members making excuses for the Labour Party’s economic mismanagement.

    @David Evans “Or do you really believe that it is right that the party has been nearly destroyed?”

    The party hasn’t nearly been destroyed. It has 60,000 members who believe in a clear Liberal philosophy. It may have lost a lot of elected members but that’s a different thing.

    What will destroy it is when members want to do down it’s record – failing to acknowledge that the coalition enacted some positive measures and stopped a load of negative ones, purely for the satisfaction of some spurious notion that they were right and everyone else wrong.

    Further damage will be wreaked if these same members try to push for “more of the same” in pursuing anti-Tory voters rather than Liberal ones.

  • TCO
    Of course there is always the possibility that liberals are anti-Tory in exactly the same way that liberals tend to be anti-conservative Parties virtually everywhere. Is it not possible the membership is going up because we are no longer in a coalition with the Tories and maybe now Nick Clegg has gone there more people thinking they can put the Lib Dems back on track.
    What will most definitely destroy the Lib Dems is following the policies that clearly nearly destroyed the Lib Dems,
    And TCO do you actually have the best interests of the Lib Dems at heart, coz I don’t get the impression that you are really a Lib Dem supporter. This social democratic tradition is a very strong part of liberalism.
    Also Osborne’s record is not actually very good. Borrowed more than Darling, dismal productivity. lost yet more industries, took the economy backwards for the first 3 years, still not able to raise interest rates and reliant on pushing household debt up to mask his manifest failure to rebalance the economy. Personally. I think the disaster in May was down to a failure to understand that the Conservatives were the Lib Dems main opposition in too many seats and a strategy that favoured the Conservatives.

  • Paul Walter

    I think a strong Lib Dem party can only be good for the poor and vulnerable in society. This is evidenced by Tim Farron and the strong numbers of Lib Dems in the Lords standing up today for workers on low pay reliant on tax credits and stopping the Governments plans. I think the country was destinyed to have a Tory government at some point and I think it would have been better if that had happened during 210-2015 rather than those years being wasted in Lib Dems shielding the Tories and making them electable, rather than in 2015 with a Lib Dem party destroyed in the Commons.

    I don’t have anything against the Lib Dems, except for those who reneged on voting against any rise in tuition fees and passed the NHS Reforms through and refused to see the decline in the party and take appropriate action. Apart from that, I’m a fan! Especially of Stephen Tall, and even of you dear Paul! 🙂

  • Haha ! Sorry for the typo of “destined”. I could say it was the Chaucerian spelling but it was just a typo. I started another post apologising for the typos but then realised that would trigger a ” flood alert” so I hoped liberal-minded folk would understand and forgive. Ok when I use the word “destined”, I meant that after 13 years of labour rule, the PR disaster that is the flawed person of Gordon Brown, and the worst recession in living memory, it was clear that Labour were not going to win the 2010 election. They didn’t have the stomach for it to be honest, they were tired and had run out of ideas. So, the only alternative that was on offer were the Tories – that’s just the way our electoral system goes. I didn’t vote for them, I voted Lib Dem. But David Cameron and the Tories were so unelectable they couldn’t even win outright even then! Now, wiser heads than mine well (Matthew Hubtbach) claim that if the Lib Dems had turned down full Coalition (say on a principled stand), the Tories would have called another election and won a majority. So we’d have had Tories for five years then but by 2015 the voters hopefully would have kicked them out and the Lib Dems would still have had MPs in double figures. But with the Lib Dems defending Tory policies and watering down/blocking some of their assaults on the poor behind closed doors, it made the populace think ” these Tories aren’t that bad”. Hence their majority in 2015. Of course within a few months of their victory, people are seeing their true colours and even their own backbenchers are now criticising them for it – see Heidi Allen on tax credits and David Willetts on what the Tories are doing to the young, never mind the Sun newspaper and The Spectator. That would have happened sooner (in 2010) without Lib Dems shielding them. So we might only have had five years of Tory rule instead of 10 years of (mostly) Tory rule.

    Cor Mark Wright, I’m absolutely intrigued to know which of my suggestions was ” bizarre and obviously nonsense” lol! I would have loved to know why you thought that so I’m sorry your post was deleted. I didn’t see it and for the avoidance of any doubt, I didn’t complain to the Mods!

    Apologies in advance for any topys! 🙂

    I want to post on other threads now and I don’t have many comments left before the flooding occurs so you may not get a reply today if either of you respond.

  • Ok just read your last sentence again Paul. Just to clarify that I am saying it was pretty well inevitable (better word than destined) that the Tories would win ONE five year term at some point – either through a second election in 2010 without the Lib Dems or in 2015 after the 2010 Coalition with the Lib Dems . So I’m saying that without the Lib Dem fig leaf, the Tories would likely have been thrown out in 2015. And the Lib Dems would have been stronger in 2015.

    It’s all largely academic now because here we are with 8 Lib Dem MPs and Labour in an uncertain position. Let’s all hope we have a different outcome in 2020!

  • @Glenn “Of course there is always the possibility that liberals are anti-Tory in exactly the same way that liberals tend to be anti-conservative Parties virtually everywhere.”

    Liberals are pro-Liberal and that means they are anti-Conservative; but they are also anti-Socialist for the same reason, something that isn’t always apparent from some comments and commenters.

    “Is it not possible the membership is going up because we are no longer in a coalition with the Tories and maybe now Nick Clegg has gone there more people thinking they can put the Lib Dems back on track.”

    I take it you mean membership has gone up because people disagreed with the coalition, rather than because the coalition was good and they regret it’s ending. I think the evidence points more towards the latter than the former; only around 10% of the new members were previous members who left because of Clegg and the coalition.

    “What will most definitely destroy the Lib Dems is following the policies that clearly nearly destroyed the Lib Dems,”

    The coalition followed coalition policies. Some of those were Lib Dem policies and in our manifesto; many were not. Unsurprising.

    The loss of votes was from those who voted “anti” somewhat unthinkingly and haven’t really examined the evidence.

    “And TCO do you actually have the best interests of the Lib Dems at heart, coz I don’t get the impression that you are really a Lib Dem supporter.”

    Ah, the old “you’re a closet Tory” canard. You really can’t accept that people can be Liberals and anti-socialist, can you?

    I’d better go and have another look at my party membership card.

    “This social democratic tradition is a very strong part of liberalism.”

    No; social democracy is one of the founding strands of the Liberal Democrats. It’s not a strong part of Liberalism. Social Democracy is also a founding strand of the Labour Party but it’s days there are numbered if the Corbynistas have anything to do with it.

    “Personally. I think the disaster in May was down to a failure to understand that the Conservatives were the Lib Dems main opposition in too many seats”

    And why was this? Because between 1997 and 2007 too little time was invested in moving up our position to be an anti-Labour party to reap the reward when Blair’s government eventually fell. Largely due to too much pro-Labour sentiment in too many parts of the party.

  • Paul Walter

    If you’re going to run an article predicated on how the actions of the current government have made it apparent in retrospect that the Lib Dems were a restraining influence then the corollary is that, in coalition therefore, the Lib Dems covered up how malevolent the Tories are. Phyllis’s “Lib Dems shielding the Tories and making them electable” is only an explication of your own article.

    Mystic Clegg predicted it, I believe.

  • TCO
    I can accept that people can be liberal and anti socialist. But the thing is you’ve been asked many times if the TCO stand for Tory Central Office and whether or not you are in fact connected to the Conservative party. At which point you never answer. The one thing I’ll say in favour of the Labour, Green or UKIP people who post on here is they are up front about their affiliations.
    And I’m sorry, bout social democracy is a big party of liberal tradition and always as been, whilst it tends to be economic right wingers who try to reduce liberal politics to ideas about market forces.

  • Stephen Hesketh 26th Oct '15 - 10:12pm

    TCO 26th Oct ’15 – 6:13pm

    “And why was this? Because between 1997 and 2007 too little time was invested in moving up our position to be an anti-Labour party to reap the reward when Blair’s government eventually fell. Largely due to too much pro-Labour sentiment in too many parts of the party.”

    Fantastic stuff. Conclusive proof that you do at least have a well developed sense of the sublime.

  • @Glenn “I can accept that people can be liberal and anti socialist.”

    Good, because it’s quite a common phenomenon.

    “But the thing is you’ve been asked many times if the TCO stand for Tory Central Office and whether or not you are in fact connected to the Conservative party. At which point you never answer.”

    This is incorrect. You just haven’t read the thread where I have.

    However, because I like you Glenn, I shall respond in full and for the avoidance of doubt. “TCO” stands for “Terry’s Chocolate Orangebooker”; nothing more, nothing less. Several OB-inclined posters on here know my true identity. The moderators certainly do, as they have me on permanent moderation, and occasionally remove one of my posts that are worded exactly the same as posts attacking me, but nevertheless contravene comments policy.

    I have several times stated that I am a long-standing party member and have been active since my teens in the 1980s. I have worked in many elections against Conservatives and organised one campaign that saw a 30% swing against them. I am fully committed to Liberalism.

    I do, however, now have a very clear sense of empathy with the likes of Liz Kendall, Tristram Hunt and Frank Field.

    “The one thing I’ll say in favour of the Labour, Green or UKIP people who post on here is they are up front about their affiliations.”

    Good for them. Though I’m not sure that’s always true.

    “And I’m sorry, bout social democracy is a big party of liberal tradition and always as been, whilst it tends to be economic right wingers who try to reduce liberal politics to ideas about market forces.£

    Social Democracy is it’s own tradition; part of which became allied with Liberalism in 1988.

    @Stephen Hesketh: “Conclusive proof that you do at least have a well developed sense of the sublime.”

    Sublime – 1. Characterized by nobility; majestic. 2. a. Of high spiritual, moral, or intellectual worth. b. Not to be excelled; supreme. 3. Inspiring awe; impressive.

  • TCO.
    I offer my sincere apology.

  • Denis Mollison 27th Oct '15 - 1:49pm

    TCO – “Social Democracy is it’s own tradition; part of which became allied with Liberalism in 1988.”

    Political views aren’t as compartmentalised as that: surely Lloyd George’s introduction of social security and Beveridge’s report show a strong element of “social democracy” in liberalism long before 1988?

  • @Dennis Mollison but wasn’t the Lloyd George introduction of pensions also wedded (as was Beveridge) to the idea of a safety net and to the contributory principle, which is much more of a Liberal position? We note that when the Welfare Sate was introduced by Labour they did away with these Liberal principles.

  • just responding to points above whether people can only be lib dems if they are both anti-socialist and anti-conservative, this is not correct imho the point about people who do not believe in left-right politics is that they are agnostic to the whole socialism/conservatism debate – disinterested if you like, because for anyone who is at heart a liberal the purpose of political activism is progress, hence progressives which in the British political tradition was the Liberals, then Lib Dems. There are progressive socialists in Labour and progressive Conservatives (I know that sounds like a contradiction) in the Tory party. I have many friends in these groups, politically we agree but we are in different parties.
    When Lib Dem candidates issue squeeze messages (as they must in first-past-the-post) this is not automatically an anti-Tory message, that just depends on who the third/fourth/fifth parties are in any particular contest. However when squeeze messages become the only message, the campaign is already lost. All the other parties issues squeeze messages as well, such as “voting Lib Dem is a wasted vote”, “if you vote Labour you’ll get the SNP telling them what to do” etc etc

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